1910s -- fiction
Maisie Dobbs. Perhaps it’s not a fascinating name, but it –is- the name of a fascinating woman. Born to a poor but loving family, thirteen-year-old Maisie goes into service in a grand London house. How very fortunate for her that it is the home of a clever and bored lady bountiful.
Boynton, Oklahoma: 1917. A stranger comes to town. A nondescript, little man in a bowler hat. Says his name is Nick. Old Nick. He seems drawn to the flaring tempers and anti-foreigner rants that are bubbling up as the United States enters WWI. He can smell the murderous rages and incendiary fear wafting off some of the citizens. For the scared and the angry, he might sidle up behind them and whisper in their ears, "Tell me. Tell me what you want." And then, somehow, their ugly thoughts . . . become reality.
A dream to get out of the drudgery of domestic service led Tess to take a leap of faith and board the H.M.S. Titanic. She knew she had more to offer the world than cleaning her mistress’ dirty linen, so when the beautiful dress designer Lady Duff Gordon agrees to take her on as a personal assistant,Tess is eager to become part of another, more glamorous life. In Kate Alcott’s The Dressmaker, Tess’ voyage veers from Cinderella story to disaster. Its aftermath will test her loyalties and love for two very different men.
Sherlock Holmes is looking for a swarm of wild bees and perhaps something more personally sinister at the start of Beekeeping for Beginners. What, or rather whom, he finds instead is a young person, dressed in good if tattered clothes, whose wits and keen observation are a surprising match for his own.
Eduardo and Ciro watched their beautiful, bereft mother leave them behind, not looking back once. Surely, they were now orphans. Abandoned to be raised at a nunnery in the Italian Alps, they would grow into good if very different young men with only one hope—to see their mother again.
Brooklyn is a tough place to grow up in the early part of the 20th century. It’s made of immigrant families struggling to get by. Young Francie Nolan, half German and half Irish, adores her handsome father, the sometime singing waiter, and her more hard-minded mother who scrubs floors and does much to give her kids a better life. But, uneducated as her parents are, they have few choices and huge problems that a bright girl like Francie can certainly see.
Cat Winters’ In the Shadow of Blackbirds is a supernatural romance set in the real and not-too-distant past when people were dying by the millions from the flu epidemic. Everybody hopes to connect with their dead loved ones, and con artist “psychics” are lined up, ready to serve.
Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black didn’t believe in such nonsense. When a “spirit photographer” uses her image with that of ghost who seems to be kneeling at her feet, she is outraged—until the ghost of her dead sweetheart comes to visit her.
Can it ever be morally acceptable to sacrifice one life to save many? That is one of the questions you will find yourself considering as you read The Lifeboat, by Charlotte Rogan. In the summer of 1914, Grace elopes with Henry Winter. After a stay in London the young couple is returning on an ocean liner to America to announce their marriage to Henry’s family. A mysterious explosion on board leads to the sinking of the ship. Henry sacrifices his own safety to secure a place on one of the lifeboats for Grace. There are 39 people on the lifeboat, and it becomes very clear early on that the boat is overcapacity.
Ragtime, by E. L. Doctorow, swirls through 1906 America with a breakneck stream-of-consciousness pace more frenetic than most historical fiction. A densely-constructed ensemble piece that alternates between fictional and real life figures of the age, the thoroughly modern novel amazed critics and readers alike upon its publication in 1975.
Twelve-year-old Abilene Tucker jumped off the train in Manifest, Kansas, well before it officially stopped—and for good reason. Abeline was in a bit of a mood. She, who was used to criss-crossing the whole nation alongside of her beloved drifter dad Gideon, was being parked for an entire summer at the dustiest, driest town imaginable while he goes to work a railroad job in another state. In Moon Over Manifest, by Clare Vanderpoole, the year is 1938—about 20 summers since her Dad was here as a boy. The whole town, not just the lawns and the gardens, seems like it’s about to blow away in the June wind. What Abilene doesn’t realize is that this seemingly dead place is full of secrets and regrets just waiting to bubble to the surface.